1. waitingforzion
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    waitingforzion Active Member

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    I still want help but I am having a hard time with understanding advice.

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by waitingforzion, Jan 18, 2015.

    I have often written paragraphs on these forums, hoping for its members to confirm that they are good. When I wrote them, I tried to be clear, but I also tried to achieve rhythm. Yet the forum members always responded that my sentences were too complex, or that they were too long. Some accused me of deliberately ignoring advice. However, I already read a few books on writing, each containing rules about avoiding the passive voice, using parallel structures, and many more. I tried to follow these rules, and for some pieces, I managed to have success. But for other pieces, which I wanted to give a more dignified tone, I lost sight of them.

    I seem to lack understanding of what makes a sentence too long, or what makes a sentence too full of clauses. I would like to write a sentence that contains numerous clauses if I could do it correctly. I think that there must be something about the way my clauses unfold information that makes my sentences unclear. I have yet to get a clear understanding from members of this forum about this. Some have said that my sentences are unclear because my ideas are not ordered or logical.

    I also do not have enough things to write about, so I am not able to get enough practice. On the one hand, I want to write clear; on the other hand, I want to write rhythmically. I feel very anxious jumping from my word processor to my books, and from my books to the forum, becoming discouraged and tired of even trying.

    One thing I don't like is how members break my sentences down until they sound plain and ordinary. I know it is possible to combine short sentences into coherent, longer ones, which, when their syntax is varied, can take on different tones or voices.

    I want to follow the advice that is being given to me, but I feel like the advice I need most has to allow me to write long sentences, even ones that attempt rhythm, because my problem seems to be not with mechanics, but with coherence.

    Anyway, I hope I have not offended anyone and I hope I can get better advice and understanding based on what I have written.

    Edit: One of the reasons I use archaic words like "for" is because I feel it flows more smoothly, whereas modern prose has a choppy rhythm. Each sentence has a pause, but in older writing, the sentences move more smoothly from one to the next.
     
  2. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    The third thread's the charm? :confused:

    Start by taking a deep breath. Either you want other people's critique or you don't. If you don't then enjoy other aspects of the forum. If you do then you have to decide if the critique is of value, or not.

    Typically if more than one person says your sentences are too long, your paragraphs too confusing, then they probably are. Perhaps you might reevaluate the rhythm thing you say you are trying to achieve. Clarity first, rhythm second. Tackle one at a time.
     
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  3. waitingforzion
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    waitingforzion Active Member

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    I just want to clarify one thing about rhythm. It not exactly rhythm I am after. It's tone and voice. I just happen to refer to a particular writer's voice as his prose rhythm, because I see the voice as having to do with how the tones rise and fall on syllables. So, from now on, I will refer to voice instead of prose rhythm.
     
  4. lustrousonion
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    lustrousonion Contributing Member

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    This is a hard one. I wish you well. I'll be happy to read anything you put up for critique. Until then, I don't know how much more there is to say that hasn't been said already. Time to just write, I think.
     
  5. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Haven't critiqued anything of yours (just don't do that any more), but I would say A) toss the books until you've written more (and you'll have plenty to write if you just open your eyes and imagination); B) read your sentences out loud - if you have to stop and take a breath, they're too long; C) look at all those clauses you want and put them into short, choppy sentences. Then start putting them back into longer sentences - slowly. When you can't remember exactly what you said at the start when you get to the end, you're getting too complicated. Time to use another sentence.

    Remember the point of writing is not to be rhythmic - it's to communicate. Anything that gets in the way of that should get changed.
     
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  6. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    And when I was 20, I thought the words "indeed" and "as such" made something sound elegant. They do not. There will be occasions to use the word "for" and it's okay that you feel it's prettier. But just make sure everything is clear. You seemed determined to write in the way you wish to write, which in a way is great, but my advice is try writing in a different way because the way you've been trying to write is clearly not working for a lot of people.

    What's the worst that can happen? Try to write in a different way - you might learn something. Then you have the fun of combining your new skill/knowledge with your old and crafting it into something more akin to what you want.

    To me, you seem to be a lot like me when I was a teenager. I wonder if you're a teen, actually. I was convinced I was a good writer and a good artist, and refused to listen to my teachers' advice on both subjects. I did exactly what I wanted to do and stuck to the way that I felt was best, and I only knew one way. I still got top marks - I wasn't exactly wrong in my assessment that I had some talent. But looking back, I now know I missed a great opportunity. Because, while my way may have been perfectly good, I lost out on the insight of my teachers and the opportunity to learn something new that could have added to my skill and helped develop my skill further and faster towards what I really wanted. Don't make the same mistake I did.

    In any case, congratulations, your post was very clear. A little stiff to read but definitely clear. So you see, you are perfectly able to achieve clarity! Now keep up the good work.
     
  7. Lancie
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    Lancie Contributing Member

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    I think long sentences are fine as long as they're grammatically correct, add value and fit the pace and tone of the piece you're writing. They need to be more than information dumps and should convey something important, be that characterisation or atmosphere. It's very easy to get lost in your writing. You know what you mean and what you're conveying but other people may not. When I struggle over something I'll read it out loud as said previously. If I get tongue tied, struggle or feel like I'm edging into nonsense I edit.
     
  8. Fitzroy Zeph
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    Fitzroy Zeph Contributing Member Contributor

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    This cannot be true.
     
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  9. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Agreed in full. The most uneventful of days can serve as scaffolding for a good story with a little imagination.
     
  10. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    More like the tenth thread. This has been going on all month.

    OP, what do you want to write? I assume your ultimate goal isn't to have written a series of disconnected paragraphs, is it? I don't even know if you want to write fiction or non-fiction. If you want to write non-fiction, do some reading of the type of stuff you want to write and really pay attention to the mechanics of people's work. Diagram their sentences, if you have to, figure out how they structure their paragraphs, etc.

    Or, if you want to write fiction, why don't you start trying to look at the other aspects of writing - characterization, plot, setting, etc. - and give yourself a break on the 'voice' thing for a while? Alternatively, try to write a passage in a different kind of voice - write from the perspective of someone simple and straightforward, and see if that quality can seep into your mindset.

    But these isolated paragraphs you're writing are... well, I think they're frustrating for you, and I know they're frustrating for me (and, I think, others). Let that exercise go for a while and try to find something else.
     
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  11. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Analogy one:

    Imagine that you want to make your living with a circus act that involves you juggling a dozen eggs while standing upright on a horse that is jumping over fences.

    Do you start with the whole act, on the premise that it's your end goal and it would be a waste of time, in fact actually shameful, to do anything less?

    Or do you start by taking horseback riding lessons and learning to juggle two or three nonbreakable objects?

    Learn to juggle. Learn to ride a horse. Leave the eggs in the carton for a while.

    Analogy two:

    Imagine that you want to learn to sew, because you want to create glorious fitted floating gowns of the filmiest silk chiffon.

    Do you skip the initial "sew a pillow cover out of cotton" project, the one that's intended to teach you how to use and control the machine, and how to get even seam allowances, because you have no interest in a cotton pillow cover?

    Do you skip the "make an apron" project, the one that's intended to reinforce the previous lesson and teach you how to use a pattern and finish and press a seam and create a simple hem, because you have no interest in an apron?

    Do you skip the "make a six-gore linen skirt" project, the one that's intended to reinforce the previous lesson and teach you how to alter a pattern and make a nice fluid properly-pressed seam that's all but invisible, because you have no interest in a linen skirt?

    Do you just skip everything, because it's all beneath you, and go out to buy fifteen yards of the lightest weight silk chiffon and a Plus Difficile Vogue pattern to sew it up with?

    If you do, you fail. And fail again. And fail again. And fail again. And fail again. And fail again. And fail again. And fail again. And fail again. And fail again. And fail again.

    You will spend hundreds, possibly thousands, of hours, and end up with essentially no skills, because you didn't allow yourself to learn those skills. You can't learn to control a machine with silk chiffon; it slips and slides and re-shapes and dives into the feed dogs and snarls and rips. To sew silk chiffon, you already have to know how to use a sewing machine. To learn how to use a sewing machine, you have to start with something other than silk chiffon.

    You are trying to start out with silk chiffon.

    Put down the chiffon and go make that pillow cover.

    Amateur Psychology:

    I generally assume that when a person persists in taking the same unsuccessful action over and over and over and over, and getting the same unhappy outcome just as many times, he or she is doing it because the unhappy outcome is what they want. You may not consciously want to keep yourself from progressing in your writing, but you are actively, determinedly, fighting tooth and nail to make sure that you don't progress. I don't know why. I think that you need to figure out why.

    Advice:

    Put down the eggs. Put down the chiffon. Sew the bleeping pillow cover. The writing equivalent: Write instructions for making scrambled eggs.
     
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  12. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    Dammit, I skipped the apron; no wonder my chiffon gown looks shit.
     
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  13. waitingforzion
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    waitingforzion Active Member

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    Put a frying pan on the stove, pour a little bit of oil in it, and turn the stove on. Take two eggs. One after the other, split the eggs by tapping them against the edge of the frying pan, being careful not to let the yoke spill out. Hold each egg over the frying pan and open it up. This should be easy since you already cracked it open. Stir the eggs with a wooden spoon until they become stiff, but not too stiff. Congradulations! You just made scrambled eggs.
     
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  14. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    Milk, butter and some pepper in mine please.
     
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  15. HelloImRex
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    HelloImRex Contributing Member

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    See, its the same problem again. You list the same event twice for no reason and it is confusing. Are you opening the frying pan or the eggs? What do you mean its easy because you already did it? I'm glad you did the instruction since its easy to see where the problem is with it whereas in your paragraphs its hard since the subject matter is more complex.

    Edit:
    Wait, you crack the egg but you don't let the yoke spill out then you spill the yoke out in a separate step? Why? Yeah, I had comprehension problems with this, maybe it was on my end because I assumed cracking the egg open meant putting the contents in the pan. It might be me, so see if other people found that clear or not.

    Okay, the problem is really in "split the eggs". I took that to mean "crack the eggs in half" but it obviously meant "put a crack in the egg".
     
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2015
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  16. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Good! No archaic phrasing or words, and the information is in more or less the correct order. I say "more or less" because you associated "one after the other" with just one of the necessary actions for opening the egg; the implication is that you crack them all as one step, then empty them all into the pan as the next step. But it's clear enough for me to be able to critique the exact details that you're describing, which is a big improvement.
     
  17. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    So good it needed two posts.
     
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  18. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    Take a pan and pour in a little oil. Crack two eggs into the pan and stir them until stiff.
     
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  19. Dunning Kruger
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    Dunning Kruger Active Member

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    Why are you writing? This is a serious question. I ask this because long, complex sentences are hard to read. Why do you want your audience to have to work so hard to read your sentences?

    I don't know anything about you in particular but other people I have seen attempting to write complex sentences usually have been doing so because they want to look smart rather than inform or entertain the reader (I'm looking at you academia). Are you writing for the reader or because you want to look smart? I am not asking this because I think this is what you are doing. I am asking because I think you should ask yourself this.

    As to rhythm, read some books that are similar to what you would like to write. Get a feel for their pacing and structure. After a while, you will casually adopt a rhythm in much the way someone adopts an accent when they move. After a while you wont have to think about it because it will be a natural part of your writing.
     
  20. waitingforzion
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    waitingforzion Active Member

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    I want to entertain the reader.
     
  21. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Remember that you can't entertain them if they can't figure out what you're saying.
     
  22. Void
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    Void Contributing Member

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    Okay, after seeing the recent threads and looking over some of the older threads for context, I really have to ask, what is your obsession with massive sentences? I've never seen so many commas before.
    You've made countless threads along the lines of "is this sentence/paragraph clear?" and all of them contain some of the most obtuse writing I've ever seen. Every writer should have a certain degree of idiosyncrasy in their work, but your style is so bombastic and verbose that even the most mundane of sentences are a chore to decipher.

    Confusing people is not a mark of genius.
     
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  23. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    Exactly this. Writing clearly and concisely and in a manner that makes you understood takes far more skill than writing pompous twaddle.
     
  24. waitingforzion
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    waitingforzion Active Member

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    Is this clear enough for you buddy?

     
  25. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's clear enough to make me regret the help and advice I've given you, and make me resolve that I will not repeat the mistake.
     
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